Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Pravda: "Accident aboard the U.S. sub bears stunning resemblance to the 'Kursk'"

This story hasn't been very visible in the urban East Coast press around here, but here's the gist from Guam's Pacific News...
... The USS San Francisco, one of three nuclear-powered submarines based on Guam, was on its way to Brisbane, Australia, for a routine port visit when the submarine ran aground. It made its way back to Guam and was moored at Sierra Pier on Monday afternoon.

NBC News reported yesterday, citing unnamed Navy officials, that the submarine was traveling at 40 mph at a depth of 525 feet when it hit an "undersea mound." The collision slowed the 7,000-ton San Francisco to about 5 mph instantly, the report stated. The submarine then made an "emergency blow," or rapid ascent, to the surface....

In the NBC News report, unnamed Navy officials, citing the submarine commander, said the San Francisco hit an "uncharted" mound that would have been invisible to the submarine's crew if they were running silently -- without using underwater sonar...
One sailor was killed and about 23 others injured due to the force of the collision without warning. Other reports say that these submarines routinely travel without using active sonar when in charted waters, as stealth is their most important trait and they don't want to tip either their presence or their technology to anyone who might be listening.

And I'll note: submarines now routinely travel 40 miles per hour submerged at 500 feet? To someone who grew up on WWII movies and just recently watched the CD of Das Boot, that's pretty impressive.

For these things to be built so that they can basically run head on into the side of a mountain at 40 miles an hour without experiencing any kind of hull rupture is pretty impressive too.

Now, from Pravda's report ...
Undoubtedly, American side will never reveal the details of the accident, just as we have never heard the Complete list of details concerning the Russian Kursk ... 23 crewmen got injured as a result of the collision. One of them was deadly injured. Overall, many of such reports still contain a hint of mystery...

It is also noteworthy to mention that the catastrophe (running aground could in fact be considered as a catastrophe!) occurred approximately (plus or minus a thousand mile, which isn"' [sic] so much on the grand ocean's scale) in the region of the most recent underwater earthquake (which led to destructive tsunami in South-East Asia.
Was the submarine's positioning in that particular area purely accidental? Time will show.

The following fact is also quite noteworthy: such incidents tend to occur more often in the US Navy than they do in Russian. Information agency "Russky Sever" (Russian North) assisted PRAVDA.RU in contacting several naval experts in regards to the matter.

According to the experts, first of all, our nuclear submarines tend to put out to sea more rarely. And secondly, training specifics of American crewmen could also be the reason. American submarine crewmen are taught that their main targets are coming from "above". In other words, they are being convinced that the main danger is crashing into the above-water objects. As for Russians, they on the contrary are taught to avoid running aground instead of watching out for the danger from "above".

Obviously, this is a mere opinion; it can either be trusted or completely disregarded. However, statistics speaks for itself: American subs tend to run aground more often, whereas Russian subs tend to crash into above water objects.

However, there remains one more unanswered question: why did "San Francisco" suddenly hit the bottom with such force that so many people got injured? Did something take place aboard the vessel prior to the sub running aground? It is a known fact that submarines do not tend to malfunction all of a sudden. Automated system of submergence and emergence executes operations smoothly.

It seems that the accident resembles the Kursk tragedy (at least judging by the visible signs). At first, an incident aboard takes place, then the vessel hits the bottom, thus leaving numerous crewmen injured. This time, Americans got quite lucky. Only one man died.

Undoubtedly, American side will never reveal the details of the accident, just as we have never heard the Complete list of details concerning the Russian Kursk. [grammar peculiarities in original]
In my youth I was perhaps the world's least talented student of the Russian language and had the valuable experience of spending some time in the Soviet Evil Empire. I was going to add some observations in light of that here, but now think I'll leave it for observers to make their own.

I'll just note that the Soviet experience left the Russian people even further from having a really western point of view than they were before it, and it is going to be a long time before they as a whole develop one that fits in comfortably with that of the peoples other long-developed western nations. We should remember that as we watch Putin and the other politicos over there, and in our dealings with them. The Fall of Communism did not leave them like us...